03/15/2013 08:33 am ET Updated May 15, 2013

'One Nation Under Stress,' With To-Do Lists And Yoga For All

"I am so stressed out" is a common refrain these days, but if you think of stress as a pervasive fact of life, consider this: Before 1976, The New York Times had never published an article about stress as we understand it today. Our idea of stress -- as a personal, internal problem -- is a recent invention.

The changing definitions of stress are one focus of Dana Becker's new book, One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble With Stress as an Idea. Becker, a professor of social work at Bryn Mawr, argues that Americans are obsessed with curing stress, rather than identifying and addressing the forces that cause it. Becker talks with NPR's Audie Cornish about the origins of the concept of stress, how "stress inflation" is affecting society and why just eating more kale isn't enough.

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